In Defense of “Impractical” Majors

If you don’t write, paint, sculpt, or direct the messages the world needs to hear, who will?

McKenzie Nevins

January 11, 2016

In Defense of “Impractical” Majors

“Yes, but what do you plan to do with that?”

“Have you considered something a little more practical?”

For those of us majoring in “impractical” – also known as “arts” fields, questions like these can unfortunately become commonplace. Well-meaning friends and family members worry that we won’t be able to support ourselves after graduation and that we’ll forever be “starving artists.”

I’m a professional writing major and theatre minor. After years of searching for answers to my own doubts, I’ve come to some conclusions that I hope will encourage many others like me.

The Broader Spectrum
I’ll begin by saying that being a novelist isn’t the only profession for a writer. Such a degree is useful for publishers, marketers, public relations employees, social media analysts, journalists, editors, and copywriters. The same goes for any arts field. There’s not just one job you’re training for.

But it goes even further.

Theatre students learn to do more than act. Art students learn to do more than paint. Writing students learn to do more than write. You see my point.

The problem here is that the students themselves often don’t realize just how much they’ve been trained to do. Skills gained in these more creative majors can be utilized in hundreds of different jobs and careers. They are what most employers are looking for – even if they don’t know it.

The Skill Set
Majors in the arts provide students with the communication skills all businesses crave. A writer, for example, has learned to adapt their voice and style to reach hundreds of different audiences. They know one message won’t work for everyone, and they know how to discover what will work for each group.

Initiative and the ability to work on a team are two other valuable traits gained in the arts. For example, theatre students working with onstage casts and backstage crews must learn to get along with many different types of people. No matter how compatible the team members are, the team must still achieve its goal.

In another example, art majors of all kinds become proficient in creative problem-solving techniques. This can be true across the board in all creative fields. When you aren’t able to create the exact shape you saw in your mind, how are you going to save the project?

Because of the amount of independent work involved, students in “impractical” fields learn time-budgeting skills, the ability to work independently, the ability to work under pressure, and respect for deadlines. They’re flexible, confident, goal-oriented, and dedicated. They’ve gained valuable leadership skills and the ability to turn disappointment into a learning experience.

Perhaps “impractical” is the wrong word…

The Conclusion
As a student in an art-related major, it’s likely that you’ll want to attempt the riskier creative fields at some point in your life. But even then, while you’re auditioning for your first show, publicizing your first book or trying to sell your first sculpture, your training has equipped you to take on almost any job – even if it’s only temporary.

There is nothing impractical about a degree in the arts. This is a lie we’ve been fed for too long, and it’s stunted hundreds of dreams. If you don’t write, paint, sculpt, or direct the messages the world needs to hear, who will?

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